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IN ancient Rome, a major victory on the battlefield was celebrated with a spectacular parade. And standing behind the triumphant military commander on his chariot was a slave, whispering to his master throughout the procession, “Remember you are mortal.”

In this election year, someone should, to paraphrase Kevin Williamson, remind politicians and voters of the things they — we — have been wrong about when we start to feel like we have it all figured out.

Among those who are (sadly) thinking about running for office, many believe that there is no “problem” that can’t be “solved” by government, and that all  we need to do is to elect the “right set” of leaders who can “inspire” us to accept the usually unacceptable (steep spending cuts — that will, among many other things, affect existing government benefits, including pensions and the employment of hundreds if not thousands of government employees — on top of higher fees/taxes) while our saint-like educated, noble and inspiring leaders craft, propose, enact and implement the “right policies” so that we can all, finally, live happily ever after.

Notice that in this scenario we, “the people,” don’t need to do anything except to be so “inspired” that we — or a majority of us — will agree all the time with all the scientific, educated and noble measures that our intellectually superior leaders will selflessly inflict on us.

Each election year, in any case, reminds me of a 1994 movie that starred Dana Carvey, “Clean Slate.” It’s about a private investigator who, every time he wakes up, has total amnesia.

In the case of many democracies around the world, it seems to me that in every election year, many voters have largely forgotten or have a vague recollection of what had happened in  previous election years — the new/young and educated candidates they elected into office; the inspiring and lofty messages of hope and change that these candidates so movingly expressed; the glittering promises, the comforting assurances.

But if all us remember all of that we would probably realize that in this election year we are hearing, more or less, the same darn things we had heard in previous election years.

And these include almost all of what was said during the recent Fiscal Response Summit organized with key assistance from Graduate School USA (formerly known as USDA Graduate School) and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

For starters, whatever happened to the previous Graduate School USA recommendations?

“The new administration…is committed to improving the CNMI’s financial management practices. The CNMI recently completed a Financial Management Improvement Plan (FMIP) to establish goals, processes and a structure for improving its financial management systems. The FMIP was developed with the assistance of the USDA Graduate School and is funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior.”

That was from a CNMI Department of Finance report 22 years ago.

About 12 years ago, a young, educated newly elected lawmaker told Variety that “we need to restructure [the CNMI] government and it’s going to be difficult, but there is assistance to do that,” referring to the USDA Graduate School. “We need that independent, non-political expertise; we just got to do it.”

But the young, educated newly elected lawmaker also admitted that “the people who are in positions to make those decisions believe that their constituents don’t want them to make those decisions, so I think the buck stops also with the voters.”

The most recent Graduate School USA recommendations are, more or less, the same ones that were proposed so many years ago: among them, tax/fee hikes and smaller government — that is, pay-cuts and mass layoffs.

Would a majority of CNMI voters support more financial hardship in this time of unprecedented financial hardship?

Anyone?

This may be news to a lot of people, but for many voters, the real problem today is not government overspending. The real problem is that their government can no longer afford to overspend.

Would anyone in PSS, for example, complain if they’re still getting the pay raises approved by the BOE when the local economy was still booming? If anyone working in the government is still receiving what they were receiving before Yutu and Covid-19 would they be as unhappy as they are now? If certain critics of the administration are given amply compensated government jobs and/or contracts what would they be saying out loud today?

When the economy had not cratered yet, did anyone oppose the government pay hikes? The bonuses for retirees? The creation and/or expansion of new programs, services, agencies, etc.? The across-the-board budget increases?

In this election year, how many of us would finally realize that many of the current “problems” are the consequences of the “solutions” to the previous years’ “problems”?

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